When I made lasagna this past weekend (one dairy free dish for me, one nasty dairy dish for my wife Therese), it was not the first time I had ever made my own lasagna from scratch. Back in the 1980s, when I was a full vegan, I made a lasagna using Ronzoni pasta sheets and crumbling up tofu sprinkled with Italian seasoning to serve as my dairy substitute. It was palatable, but not much more than that. No, what made this recent foray into lasagna-land a first was the “handmade” part – that I had finally tried out my KitchenAid pasta roller.
Now, for those who want to try this at home, I just want to say: give yourself some extra time. Because the KitchenAid pasta roller is not hard to use, but it does take some time getting used to it. I found that the semolina pasta recipe that I used – the one in KitchenAid’s instruction booklet – needed A LOT more water than suggested. As in, the recipe called for one or two tablespoons, and I probably used about 8 by the time I was done. The dough was just way too dry. The way that I found it easiest to hydrate the dough after having already formed it, was to run it through the roller one chunk at a time, all crumbly, and then to brush it with water, folding it over to brush every surface, then knead it to get the water distributed throughout, run it through the roller a second time, brush it again (not so much water this time), and then it was pliable enough to come through the roller on its thickest setting clean and smooth.
And then of course I upped the settings a couple of times, to get the pasta to the desired thickness and size for lasagna. Each chunk sliced in half made two sheets. I laid out a cutting sheet, sprinkled flour over it, laid out four sheets of pasta on it, sprinkled flour on top of them, then put a sheet of parchment paper on that, sprinkled more flour on top of that. Repeating that got me to sixteen sheets of pasta, enough for two pans of lasagna.
Yes, it was that yellow – the semolina flour is very yellow. I used nearly a package of Red Mill semolina to made the dough.
So once the pasta sheets were done, it was straight lasagna after that. And of course, lasagna can be anything you want it to be. I wanted mine to have a combination of multiple meats and multiple cheeses. Let’s start with the latter. For the ricotta-like creamy soft cheese, I went with Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream (Tofutti makes a Ricotta, but I have rarely seen it sold anywhere I shop). For the shreds of melty Mozzarella, I went with two different cheeses: Daiya Mozzarella Shreds on the inside of the lasagna (about three-quarters of a package), and I grated a block of Follow Your Heart Mozzarella to sprinkle over the top of the dish.
For meats, I went with three different ones: 2 large sweet Italian sausages (removing the casings so they would crumble into the sauce), half a pound of ground pork and a quarter pound of ground veal, all nicely crumbled up into the sauce.
But now I am getting ahead of myself a bit. I started off by chopping two medium onions and sweating them with a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
Then I minced three cloves of garlic and tossed them in and let them start to cook for about a minute. Then I added all the meats, and stirred them around to get them nice and browned. Then I chopped up a package of crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, and added them.
Then I added my sauce, in a rather unscientific amount (I used jar sauce, boo hiss, I know) – probably about 40 ounces worth, sprinkling some dried basil and oregano over it, and hitting it with a little sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, and adding 2 bay leaves for good measure.
I brought that to a simmer and let it cook for a good fifteen minutes to make sure the meat was well cooked. That meat and sauce mixture would serve as the filling for both pans of lasagna (so I guess if you were doing just one, you could cut all that in half).
I assembled in the usual manner: first some sauce, then first layer of pasta (two sheets), then more sauce, then the two cheeses. I repeated that twice, putting some reserved plain sauce (no meat or mushrooms) and mozzarella on the top.
I baked it in a 350 oven for 45 minutes, then let it rest for 10 minutes after removing it from the oven before serving it. It looked great (see the top of this post again for a look at the finished product). And it tasted even better. One serving, about a sixth of the pan, was plenty to fill me up – you can definitely say that this dish serves six, although if you’ve got an extra-hungry crowd, you could prepare a salad or green vegetable as a side dish to make sure everyone walks away with a full happy belly. But more than likely, you will have some very satisfied people if you serve this for dinner!